Who’s the leader? It’s no surprise to anyone that there are more followers than leaders. People seek strong leaders that’ll give them the proper guidance to succeed. It’s in our nature. Finding the leader is a little easier said than done. Most companies and businesses struggle determining the difference between a leader and a manager. A good manager could mean a terrible leader. A strong leader might not have the greatest numbers that a business seeks at first but they can rally a team and get movement. If you’re wondering if there’s that big of a difference, there is… A massive one.

A leader is defined as an individual that commands a group, organization, or country. I don’t really agree with this definition. I would say that a leader is an individual that inspires a group, organization, or country to work towards a common goal. If you’re leading by commanding are you really leading or are you forcing? I know where I stand on the subject. You’ll never get headway by commanding. Believe me I used to do this and failed miserably. It wasn’t till later that I realized inspiring a group to work together can help you move mountains.

The History of Leaders

Leaders started out as watchful protectors. They were essentially the Batman’s to the human race. These leaders would be the warriors that protected the early tribes and colonies. Along with that, leaders were rewarded the most. The following had no issues with this because they knew the risks associated with being the leader. Since they were the first defense the leader would have the highest risk of getting injured or losing their life. A high price to pay.

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Most importantly, leaders looked out for the well being of their followers. They knew that if they couldn’t protect their following that they wouldn’t have anyone to follow them or would get overthrown if unfit. Followers knew they could trust that their leaders had their back through anything. Today, that’s no longer the case for a good amount of leaders. For more on this check out Simon Sinek. Simon Sinek is extremely knowledgeable on the history of leadership and human behavior. His teachings are fantastic and I highly recommend his book, Why Leaders Eat Last.

Leaders today have adapted. They went from the most physically fit to the most mentally fit.  Business leaders are seen as team leads, team captains, managers, business owners, CEO’s, etc. Most of these positions don’t necessarily resemble a leader. They resemble someone that knows how to do a job well, get results, teach others, play politics, etc. Do you get a leader from those or numbers? You can tell the difference between a leader and a manager by how they look after those that follow them. If you have a manager that’ll throw someone on their team under the bus the first chance they get, that’s no leader.

A group will be able to determine if the person in charge is a leader or not very quickly. It’s engraved in our human nature. To determine you’ll typically ask yourself, “does this person look out for me or not?” If yes, you’ll back them up and are more likely to follow them. If not, you know they aren’t a true leader and never truly be able to follow them.

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What Defines a Leader

A leader looking out for their group doesn’t necessarily mean they’re defending them in a battle. Great leaders take ownership for everything. They own the failures as well as give praise on the successes. A leader isn’t going to let their following take the fall. If an individual messes up or the team fails they’ll step up and defend their group as a leader should.

Successful leaders have the ability to connect with their team in a way to overcome challenges. Nothing is going to be easy but if a team member is struggling they’re going to take the time required to get that person back on track. I can’t tell you enough how important this is. So many managers will give up on their team and resort to firing people if they aren’t getting something. I think that this couldn’t be farther from a leader.

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Gary Vaynerchuk is CEO of Vaynermedia and has has a few books. In one of them he mentions how most companies should think of their employees as family members in a family owned business. He talks about how you would put in every bit of effort and time in first to ensure you did everything in your power to set them up for success first before firing.

True leaders think this way. They’ll do everything in their power before resorting to separation. They don’t see employees as a name or a number. It goes much deeper than that. Only after a leader goes to this extent will they be able to determine if an employee is right for their team or not. Leaders can determine a weak link in the team and if no progress is made they’ll ultimately have to sever ties. One anchor is detrimental to the whole team’s success.

Leadership Qualities

A leader doesn’t just look out for their group or organization. There are many qualities that make up a great leader. You may be familiar with most if not all of these but I have listed out some great qualities that I believe make up a great leader:

  • Leaders don’t jump to conclusions. They’ll ask why to understand why someone isn’t doing something.
  • They treat excuses like the plague.  Leaders know how detrimental excuses are to their team and have a zero tolerance policy, including themselves. If you don’t understand how important this is check out my post on the biggest thing holding back your success.
  • They listen to their team. Listening and adapting is how a team thrives instead of survives.
  • They’ll walk the walk. Leaders aren’t afraid of doing any job required to achieve their goal.
  • Communication. They can clearly communicate to their team.
  • They foster positivity. A leader focuses on building people up instead of breaking them down.
  • Leaders will understand what makes their team go. They’ll find out what motivates and drives people and hone in on that. This is how they can get everyone on their team working towards the common goal.
  • They’re the most passionate person on the team. Their passion alone is enough to get their team enthusiastic and inspired to do great work.
  • They’re honest with what’s happening. Leaders don’t lie and deceive their following to get them to do something. This one’s huge.
  • They aren’t fake. I can’t tell you how awful fake leaders are. I had one for a while and there’s nothing worse. Someone that pretends to care but you can’t fake being a leader. In the end the true colors will show through.
  • Leaders are confident and are open to change. Adapting will keep the team ahead of the competition and aren’t insecure about change, themselves, or their team.
  • A great leader will be relentless. They’ll never give up. If a challenge or problem arises they overcome the objection or attack it a different way. For more on the easiest way to overcome objections check out my post on it here.
  • Ownership towards everything. I know I mentioned this a little earlier but it’s super important. Everything always reverts back to the leader. If an employee is failing then the leader either didn’t train them well enough or didn’t weed them out as a weak link and sever ties. The leader is accountable not the individual.

That’s My Leader

Great leaders will have many if not all of these qualities. Managers will have few of these and attempt to fake others. There’s a light-year of difference between a leader and manager. A team should be able to confidently and proudly pronounce their leader. The team may not get instant results but the chemistry and teamwork will bring success eventually. Employees will have no issues going above and beyond. When everyone is working together towards a common goal they’ll be able to accomplish more. Not only that but the entire team will be happier and they’ll feel valued. You’ll triumphantly state “that’s my leader.” 

When a company or team is failing they shouldn’t look at the team or individuals. They should go straight for the leadership. I don’t mean solely low level leadership either. Starting at the top and working your way to the bottom is ideal. Most companies refuse to face the truth that comes from this. They’ll do what’s easy and place blame and sever heads.

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Let these suggestions be a platform for you to determine who the real leader is. The proper leader must be put in place or the team will never be able to succeed. Always remember that leaders are made not born. It’s never too late to improve to being the leader that your team deserves and needs.

Some leaders seem to struggle with inspiring millennials. I have been very successful with understanding millennials in the workplace, being one myself I kind of know how we all think. If you do struggle with millennials check out my post on it here.

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Be great,

Cody Cameron